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[afro-nets] Health and Human Rights training materials

Health and Human Rights Training materials from PHM South Africa

1. What are Human Rights?

Human rights are:

Something we can claim from society

Claims that are legitimate (not just anything)

Claims for social needs as well as material resources

Needs that are fundamental to being human

Limit what the state CAN and CAN'T do to individuals, groups

Also, prescribes what the state SHOULD do for us

General or universal

Codified in law - national / international

2. Can rights ever be limited?

Rights can be restrictedonly if one right interferes with another person or 
person's right/s

Certain rights can NEVER be restricted

Right to a fair trial

Right to be free of torture, etc

Civil/political rights (freedoms) are indivisible from socio-economic 

3. What does it mean to have a right?

Rights imply a claim; it is more than charity - the state has an OBLIGATION to 
enable you to realize your rights

With rights go responsibilities

You cannot enjoy right of access to health care if (e.g.) clinic is too far

For every right ® there is a corresponding duty
Usually, it is government that has the duty, but increasingly, private 
corporations are regarded as having rights responsibilities

4. How is government a bona-fide duty bearer?

Government has four kinds of human rights obligations:

To RESPECT your rights by NOT passing laws or having programs that violate your 

To PROTECT your rights from other people who might violate your rights (e.g., 
an exploitative employer)

To take ACTIVE measures to FULFILL your rights - by budgeting implementing 
programs and passing laws

To PROMOTE rights by enabling people to know about how to realize their rights

5. Government obligations in line with international human rights law

If governments sign an international treaty, they indicate they agrees with the 
principle and aim of the treaty, but they are not bound by that treaty

If governments ratify an international treaty, they are bound by that treaty 
and must:

Pass laws

Budget for implementation

Put in place programs that put the treaty into effect.

6. Are human rights just for use by lawyers?


Human rights can be used:

To hold governments accountable

To shape government policies

Get redress and compensation for people suffering violations

Create space for Civil Society Mobilization

7. What can constitutions say about health as a right?

Broadly speaking, it can talk about 2 kinds of things:

1. Health care: Access to health services, emergency care, etc

2. Conditions we need to be healthy.

8. Health Rights Provisions in a Typical Bill of Rights

It should make reference to different ways in which the right to health should 
be realized:

Access to health care services…(progressively realized)

No-one can be refused emergency treatment

Right to Life

An Environment not harmful to health

Access to sufficient food and water

Access to adequate housing

Bodily integrity; freedom and security of persons

Children - basic nutrition & health care services, shelter

Dignity, equality, non-discrimination

Access to information

Freedom from Torture

9. Health as a Human Right – National level

Progressive realization: The State doesnot have to put in place expensive 
services it cannot afford, or provide all forms of health care to those who 
need it, but it must say how it is going to increase its provision of health 
care over time.

Right to Participation and Rights to Information are instrumental for achieving 
other rights.

10. Health as Human Right – International level

The United Nations defines the right to health as follows:

The ICESCR speaks of “… the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest 
attainable standard of physical and mental health…”

Health is closely related and dependent on other rights (food, water, housing, 
work…) illustrating the recognition of the social determinants of health.

Not only “timely and appropriate health care” is required for meeting the right 
to health but also the underlying determinants of health: i.e., all relevant 
services, facilities and resources, not just health care

11. How do we know if right to health is met?

The United Nations defines the right to health as being measurable in terms of:

Availability: functioning public facilities, programs, in sufficient quantity


No discrimination

Geographical/physically accessible


Information available

Acceptability: respect culture, ethics

Quality: medically appropriate, scientific quality


The People’s Health Movement and the “Right to Health Campaign”

Who is the People’s Health Movement?

The People’s Health Movement is a global network of civil society groups, 
researchers, trade unions, activists and workers involved in health.  PHM 
believes that “The true indicator of the state of a nation is the health of its 
people”, in that the health of a nation is a reflection of enlightened and 
equitable social policies, compassionate communities, a caring leadership and a 
social system based on the indisputable value of human life.  In short, we are 
committed to health as a right.

“Health is a social, economic and political issue and above all a fundamental 
human right. Inequality, poverty, exploitation, violence and injustice are at 
the root of ill-health and the deaths of poor and marginalized people.” 
People’s Charter for Health

We are concerned about the single-minded focus on ‘growing the economy’ as the 
“cure” for all our ills. The time frame for that to benefit our people is too 
slow. People need food now, clean water now, a place to sleep now and access to 
health care now. We believe that the economy does not come before the people, 
rather, economic development should be a tool to benefit the people.

PHM has proposed the launch of aGlobal Campaign on the Right to Healthand local 
circles are launching this campaign in already 16 countries.  For further 
information on PHM global please go to

Why Do We Need a Right to Health Campaign?

The health of people worldwide and in this country is getting worse. They are 
burdened with four epidemics of disease including (1) diseases of so called 
‘developing’ countries, like childhood diarrhea, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and 
measles (2) emerging chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and 
heart disease, (3) a high burden of injuries and violence, and, not least, (4) 
the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which is a huge problem worldwide.

Who Should Be Involved in the Right to Health Campaign?

Health and illness are not just the result of healthcare services. They result 
from policies, both local and global, that affect people’s access to healthy 
food, clean water, decent sanitation, adequate housing/shelter, steady 
employment and proper health information. In short, our poor health status is a 
reflection of a ‘diseased society’, one in which insufficient priority is given 
to human well-being.

Because health is determined by so many factors outside the health services, we 
need a campaign led by civil society, including many sectors required for the 
health of communities such as health, water, land, housing, education, labor, 
etc.  In fact, PHM has long been working with NGOs and social movements in 
other sectors that seek to secure healthier environments, workplaces, and 

What is the Purpose of the Right to Health Campaign?

To raise awareness worldwide of what constitutes health: not only health 
services but also the range of basic services and relationships that are the 
determinants of good health

To strengthen civil society organizations and build strong partnerships with 
trade unions

To create a platform for health workers to discuss working conditions and other 

To enable communities and ordinary people to have a meaningful say in the 
development, implementation and monitoring of policies.

To enable local organizations to link with international networks of 
like-minded health groups, building international solidarity and capacity to 
advance the right to health.

To give meaning to the right to participation by giving people a voice.

To urge government to create a sustainable health system that gives substance 
to recent charters and declarations.

What is the “Right to Health”?

As part of many countries’ constitutional commitment to realizing rights, the 
promotion of the right to health is a key obligation for the state. Health is 
one of a number of socio-economic rights, all dependent on each other and 
essential for human well-being and development. Unfortunately, the world over, 
there is a large gap between the human rights provisions in the constitution 
and what is happening on the ground.

A campaign that focuses on the right to health will help to identify system 
failures, secure redress for those unfairly treated, prevent future abuses from 
taking place and show case positive experiences. We believe a Right to Health 
campaign can build a health system that helps all people realize their human 

What can the Right to Health Campaign Do?

The Right to Health Campaign can draw from the extremely successful campaign in 
India where public hearings, often in very simple community settings, gave 
community members the chance to give testimony of their experiences of the 
health services and of the violation of their right to health.  It can also 
embark in doing a right to healthcare assessment using the PHM Assessment Guide 
found in the PHM website ( following the link to ‘campaigns’).

The campaign will be driven by NGOs, with key leaders as patrons, and 
supplemented with media coverage (radio, print, TV). We will solicit testimony 
from ordinary beneficiaries who experienced violations of their right to health 
as well as positive experiences that advance the right to health. Activities 
can include:

Hearings & testimonies, both of violations and of positive experiences in 
realizing the right to health from users of health care, community members, 
health workers and others.

Carrying out a RTH assessment as per the PHM Guidelines followed by a national 
workshop to present the findings and.

Surveys of working conditions, staff morale, motivation and human resource 

Materials development on the ‘Right to Health’ in the form of pamphlets, 
manuals, etc.

Education regarding the right to health and the broader determinants of health;

Discussing progress on the Right to Health campaign in each country.

Research and Analysis – to monitor accountability and significant improvements 
or lack thereof.

 We are especially interested in working in the following areas to promote the 
right to health:

Children, the elderly, the disabled and other vulnerable groups

Domestic violence


Transport and obstacles for access

Housing, land rights activism

Social security

Environmental issues: garbage collection; safe water and sanitation

Impact of alcohol on children and communities

The situation faced by Health Workers themselves and human resources in health

Right to information.

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